To help celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Pentagon is exhibiting photos from the campaign in the China-Burma-India Theater, which saw at least 250,000 U.S. military personnel join forces with the Chinese people in a shared struggle for freedom from foreign intervention.
The exhibition arose from a 2010 visit to the U.S. National Archives by a team of Chinese scholars and researchers led by Zhang Dongpan. The group found 23,000 photos depicting U.S.-China wartime cooperation and then exhibited many of them in cities around China.
Dongpan’s quest began in 2000 when a woman handed him an obscure and unexplained 1944 photo showing the funeral of an American officer in Tengchong, Yunnan province. Because of his subsequent research and exhibiting of hundreds of images, millions of Chinese have come to learn about their country’s alliance with the United States during the war.
At its March 18 Pentagon opening, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said the National Memories exhibition helps people “on both sides of the Pacific remember this part of our shared history” and allows them to proudly use it to “deepen the understanding and communication between the United States and China.”
Retired U.S. Army Colonel John Easterbrook, in a foreword to the exhibition, said the Chinese “have a saying that the Chinese people never forget a friend and this exhibit is one small manifestation of that fact.” Easterbrook also wrote a magazine article on the China-Burma-India campaign.
Easterbrook added that when the photos were shown in the Chinese city Shenzhen, local secondary school students used postcards printed with some of the images to write U.S. veterans messages of thanks. The cards “made a deep and grateful impression,” he said.
In his introduction to the Pentagon exhibition, Dongpan wrote, “We see in these photographs a reminder of the friendship between the Chinese and American people.”